“Oh my God. It’s another one.”
It’s clear. First, tall, slim Echo. Then short, squat Dot. Now diminutive, talkative Harness.
But far from really being a simple Echo Mini Me, Tap has unique attributes all its own. And despite some frustrations (mainly with the awkward Alexa app), Amazon Tap could become your traveling buddy — whether that travel is between your home’s rooms or hotels on the road. Pat fulfills its promise as a quality mobile streaming WiFi and Bluetooth loudspeaker, and functions almost as well for Alexa voice command -and-response as its stationary sibs.
Tapping on outside of the carton
If you’ve ever seen an Echo, opening Amazon Tap’s carton is a surprise — not merely at how short Pat is, but how thin. Pat is two thirds the height and diameter of an Echo, and weighs about a pound. That’s more than a half-pound less than Echo. And where Dot is basically a squashed Echo with the same width, the six-inch tall Pat is smaller in every dimension, which makes it simple to hold and carry.
It’s “nearly,” because in the event you want to take total advantage of its own portability, you must shell out another $20 for a Sling cover that is rubberized to safeguard Harness from bumps and falls. At least you can select a colour.
Charging is straightforward. Set the Exploit onto the cradle and it charges up to its estimated nine-hour battery life. The charging cable plugs right into the back close to the power button, if Tap’s in its sling.
Setup instructions are excessively minimalist, in Amazon’s fashion that is typical, with a tiny inbox folder, and rely too heavily on the balky Alexa smartphone app. Even having experience setting up Dot and Echo doesn’t really help. Hold the power button to turn Tap on? Um, where’s the power button? How long do I hold it? Amazon, and Alexa, are silent on this and other potentially useful ease-of-set up issues.
Yet the voice that greets is all recognizable Alexa: “Hello. Your Tap is ready for set up. Just follow the instructions in your Alexa app.”
And this is where Exploit frustrates. The in-app directions just don’t operate as expected. The app isn’t smart enough to understand I desire to connect the new Harness to an identical network though “Frank’s Echo Dot” and “Frank’s Echo” are shown as online within the app’s settings. Instead, I’m compelled to reenter the WiFi password that is identical long, then an “error enrolling device is returned by the app,” I exit setup, I re-enter set up, and unexpectedly “Frank’s Faucet” appears and is shown as being joined.
Oh, and the brief in-app “Intro to Tap on ” video it wants to show me? It really never gets beyond an infinitely loading rotating circle icon.
But at least Tap is ready to really go. Verdict: Fine hardware, but Amazon continues to get room for development on its flaky Alexa app.
Under my thumb, and control
Pat has a double function in life, both to channel Alexa’s awesome cloud voice and brain (well recorded elsewhere), and to be a far better mobile speaker than the first Echo.
TapportsPairing with my Google Nexus 5X was simple and straightforward. Under Bluetooth settings in the Alexa app, I followed Tap’s spoken prompts and chose “Enter matching mode”. I seemingly also could have pressed the Bluetooth/WiFi button on the back to commence the connection procedure.
Streaming via my smartphone was equally flawless: I listened to WAMU in Washington, D.C. through the TuneIn app, and played Electric Light Orchestra tunes on the Rhapsody app (don’t judge). Both of the soft touch volume controls in addition to Tap worked as expected with Rhapsody on Bluetooth, as did the person Next (“>>”>>) , Previous (buttons.
These lid-top controls, too, are different than on the Echo and Dot, owing to Pat’s mobile loudspeaker purpose. Echo and Dot each have a volume ring to turn that lights up. When touching Pat’s top to adjust volume, its five blue LED lights come on to affirm the press.
But what about Alexa? Not because by invoking her name Pat on might inadvertently turn, as with Dot and Echo. But because saying “Alexa” will not trigger Alexa on Tap.
Rather than that, you press — or “ tap” — the button with a microphone icon on the front to issue your command. No leading “Alexa” required. When it’s pressed, Tap reacts with a tone, you speak, and Wiretap afterward validates it comprehends your request using a second tone.
The end result is still what you anticipate. Delightfully, Pat found and recited the news briefing I’d already configured for Echo and Dot immediately (the proven fact that Pat is registered to exactly the same Amazon account has everything to do with that), streamed music from my Amazon Music library and spouted a few Wikipedia facts, all over my WiFi connection.
And the audio is incredibly great. It filled my home office free of trouble.
But one critical evaluation remained: Road trip portability.
On the road
I travel a good deal. Usually, I take a Jam HMDX Bluetooth speaker, a gift from my son, to avoid crappy (or non-existent) resort radios and tinny smartphone and notebook audio.
Tucking the Pat into its green Sling like a water bottle into a holder, I rolled it up in clothes and carried it on board in my bag, determining to leave the charger at home to see how great the battery life truly was.
Unscathed and TapHotel1Unpacked, Tap’s first task was to connect to the resort WiFi. Sadly, the Alexa app once again displayed its flakiness, compelling me to go backward and forward repeatedly between signal-in the app to get it to accept the resort network and screens, even though all measures were followed precisely. It’s no more easy connecting Tap to WiFi on the road than at home, which is unlucky for a device that is mobile.
I didn’t attempt that, although tap does have a choice to connect to a smartphone’s mobile hotspot for WiFi instead.
In operation, Pat seemed great — far better than the Jam HMDX. It was suitable use or to play anything I would generally get through Alexa at home, from local and music weather to Alexa’s hundreds of skills that are “.” And I did as I normally do on the road, freeing up my Nexus 5X for other jobs, n’t need to use the smartphone as an intermediary between loudspeaker and sound.
The one disadvantage that became more evident on the road than at home was the need to press the Talk button whenever I desired to give Tap a new order. That generally meant walking across the hotel room, even to advance to another song. It’s if it may create the Alexa equivalent of an Caps Lock button for sequential Pat voice commands, an annoyance Amazon may have the ability to address in the future.
Having said that, Tap passed the traveling pal test. Best of all, it changed back to my home WiFi network automatically.
The Alexa family portrait
The $130 Amazon Tap is a smart alternative for those who would like intelligent voice features are ’sed by Alexa united with an impressive mobile Bluetooth/WiFi speaker. (To get complete use, the actual cost is $150, because you’ll desire the “elective” $20 Sling to carry it around.) The awkward-yet- Alexa app that is essential is Tap’s largest handicap.
Is a bit more confusing where it fits into Amazon’s Alexa speaker family from an audio point of view, and Amazon hasn’t exactly made the differences easy to understand. The initial $180 Echo has WiFi or Bluetooth sound in, but simply its own loudspeakers out. The $90 Echo Dot has WiFi or Bluetooth sound in, and Bluetooth or wired audio out. Now Tap has Bluetooth, WiFi, and sound that is wired like Echo, just its own loudspeakers, although in out.
Still, for flexibility, portability, and functionality, Amazon Tap strikes a nice balance. It probably will replace my road warrior-weary Jam loudspeaker.
Once I figure out how to describe that needless to say, to my son.